Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another opera great has passed...

At left, "The Three Tenors" (from left to right)...Jose Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti, and Placido Domingo.

As of this morning, they are down to two tenors...Luciano Pavarotti has passed away after a year-long fight with pancreatic cancer. This type of cancer is one of the most devastating...hitting the patient hard and fast, I've been told.

At any rate, Pavarotti is like my beloved Beverly Sills in that he (along with Carerras and Domingo) brought opera to the masses. The Three Tenors concerts were blockbusters, and even though the efforts were critiqued by some opera snobs, the trio of greats were laughing all the way to the bank and basking in ovation after ovation.

Pavarotti did some "commercial" efforts as well, mainly his "Pavarotti and Friends" concerts. Again, the snobs didn't approve of him teaming with pop stars, but you have to admit that many people knew who he was, and they weren't necessarily season ticket holders at the Met.

As far as how I feel about Pavarotti as a performer, I must admit he's not my absolute favorite tenor. I like him a lot, but I guess Carreras and Domingo are the ones who really grab my soul and hold on tight. I'm not sure why...all three men were/are equally talented. I guess the difference lies in the fact that Pavarotti seemed way "larger than life", and that can be intimidating to me as a listener.

However, I know what Pavarotti's presence meant to the world of opera and music in general. He's had to deal with bad press and bad personal decisions but overall, he came through shining. He was loved by many.

One of Pavarotti's signature arias is "Nessun dorma", from the Puccini opera Turandot.

This opera's storyline came from the Persian collection of tales called One Thousand and One Days. This particular story is about a Chinese princess named...Turandot. To explain the plot would be inflicting much typing upon myself, and since I am by no means an operatic scholar I will spare you all the pain of that choice. I'd say if you wanna know all about it, type "Turandot" into the search engine of Wikipedia and learn like I did.

Anyway, one piece from this opera is world famous (thanks in part to Luciano Pavarotti's performance) and considered a benchmark that other operatic tenors strive to perform. This piece is sung by a young prince who is attempting to win Turandot's hand in marriage, but for reasons within the story, will not tell her his real name.

This is the English translation of the lyrics (again, thank you Wikipedia)

The Prince
Nobody shall sleep!... Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess, in your cold room, watch the stars, that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me, my name no one shall know... No!...No!...
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...

The Chorus of women
No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.

The Prince
Vanish, o night! Set, stars! Set, stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!
Thanks to the magic and wonder of YouTube, I have two video clips for today that center around "Nessun dorma". The first is of the man himself...Luciano Pavarotti...singing this beloved aria. If it doesn't send a chill down your spine, you'd better check your pulse 'cuz I think you're dead (or not an opera fan).

Next...the Three Tenors joining together for this song.

What I think is cool about this clip is that you get to hear how all three of these tenors sing this song. The words and the music are all the same, but each singer has their own personal sound that they bring to the party (so to speak).

That's what (in my opinion, as a singer) is so wonderful about the human singing voice. You can have two people singing the same notes, and they can both sound totally different from each other and glorious all at the same time. There are voices that aren't so glorious but I'm not thinking about that right now.

As much as I love my instrumentalist brothers and sisters, you have to admit that no matter how good a musician plays their instrument, it's still going to sound like that instrument. You can't make an oboe sound like a trumpet. It's going to sound like an oboe...which is good too.

Anyway, in the spirit of "Nessun dorma", I am going to present clips (on a semi-quasi-regular schedule) from other performances with this same song being the central focus. Some will be unexpected, and one will be disappointing. But all will be striving for that same thing; "dissolving the silence..."

So to end, here's a quote from Pavarotti that sums things up nicely, I think...

"Every day I remind myself of all that I have been given. ... With singing, you never know when you are going to lose the voice, and that makes you appreciate the time that you have when you are still singing well. I am always thanking God for another season, another month, another performance."
I hope I remember to do that. One never knows when things will change and you can't do the thing you love anymore.